Early in the game, the Suns’ switching defense created matchup advantages for the Warriors. You understand why the Suns go that route, especially when Dragan Bender is involved in the pick-and-roll coverage, but Golden State can and will attack those advantages incessantly.
Both teams scored well early, and the Suns stole an early 15-14 lead.
Later in the first quarter, Warriors coach Steve Kerr rolled out a lineup featuring all of Kevon Looney, Zaza Pachulia and Draymond Green, effectively using three centers. Green ran the offense and defended Josh Jackson (cool moment) though, because he’s Draymond Green. And also because Golden State was missing five players to injury.
Josh Jackson took over the end of the frame, putting pressure on the Warriors’ defense going toward the rim. Golden State turned the ball over three times, and by capitalizing on those opportunities and a few botched Warriors rotations, the Suns took a 34-30 lead into the second quarter.
Jackson continued his aggressiveness to begin the second, and fought his way to 15 points after a pull-up mid-ranger, the first one all season that hasn’t made me squirm. Through Jackson’s first minutes, he shot 6-9 from the field and knocked down a pair of 3s on his way to 15 points, giving the Suns an 11-point lead.
Later, in the hotly anticipated follow-up to the Ricky Rubio-Marquese Chriss fight Thursday in Utah, Nick Young got into Dragan Bender’s face outside the 3-point arc after taking offense to some defensive contact on the part of Bender. A technical was assessed to the Warriors, and Young responded soon after with a bomb over Bender to cut the Suns’ lead back to single digits.
Phoenix led 60-52 going into the second half. Jackson had 20 points, Troy Daniels had 16.
A T.J. Warren triple! After a quiet first half, Warren launched from the right wing and made his first 3 of the night. Yet it was the Warriors’ defense shortly after that took hold of the game, led by Green and Andre Iguodala. Golden State cut the lead to one with 6:49 remaining in the third.
By the 5:01 mark, Green had willed his team even further, building a 7-point Warrior lead behind his 15 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
Though Shaquille Harrison has been a plus for the Suns in so many ways, he is as big a contributor as anyone to the team’s inefficiency at the rim. After falling to 1-5 on the night, Harrison was replaced by Tyler Ulis around the 2:30 mark of the third, for Ulis’ first minutes of the night.
Back to the Jackson show: the rookie, inspired by a conversation with our own Evan Sidery, was everywhere on the court offensively, seizing the added opportunity without Devin Booker. Not only was it one of the more efficient nights of his career, but it was the most patient we’ve seen Jackson all year. He used the attention Golden State had to pay him and consistently passed into open space.
At the 8-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Jackson eclipsed his career high with point No. 30. If anyone outside of he and Daniels had shown life on offense all night, Jackson’s effort might have come in a victory.
And just as the Suns’ initial run was squelched by Green, so was their last. The Warriors’ lone All-Star nearly notched a triple-double and put the Suns away late with a layup and pull-up 3.